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Welcome to the U.S. Department of State. The information for students, parents, and educators on this website is being transitioned to the full State Department site at www.state.gov. Specifically, see http://www.state.gov/youthandeducation/.

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Democracy and Human Rights

Democracy and the protection of fundamental liberties were the basis for the creation of the United States of America more than 200 years ago. Since then, a central goal of U.S. foreign policy has been to promote respect for democracy and human rights throughout the world.

The State Department:

  • Promotes democracy as a way to achieve security, stability, and prosperity for the entire world;
  • Helps establish and assist newly formed democracies; and
  • Identifies and denounces regimes that deny their citizens the right to choose their leaders in elections that are free and fair.

Human rights are a crucial foundation to create and maintain democracy. The State Department works especially hard to promote human rights in those countries where democracy is not firmly established.

The Department:

  • Holds governments accountable to their promises to uphold universal human rights;
  • Promotes greater respect for human rights, including freedom from torture, freedom of speech and other expression, freedom of religion, freedom of press, protection of the rights of women and children, and protection of minorities;
  • Promotes the rule of law, such as fair judicial and voting procedures;
  • Helps reform and strengthen the UN Commission on Human Rights;
  • Coordinates support for human rights with our allies; and
  • Releases an annual report on human rights practices.

Also see www.state.gov/j/drl.

Other Transnational Issues

The State Department also deals with many issues that are transnational, extending beyond any single country's borders. Just a few examples include:

Health Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases pose problems for health around the world and in the U.S. As these diseases spread and larger numbers of people become sick, the stability--both political and economic--of a country becomes at risk. The State Department works with other agencies of the U.S. Government and countries overseas to prepare and respond to world health problems and monitor the spread of potentially dangerous diseases. Also see www.state.gov/s/gac and www.state.gov/e/oes .

Environment Many environmental issues respect no borders and threaten the health, prosperity, and even the national security of Americans. Pesticides in food and water, polluted air, and invasive plant and animal species can hurt our welfare and economy. When people around the globe lack access to energy, clean water, food, or a livable environment, the economic instability and political unrest that may result can be felt at home. Climate change is another environmental issue, and the State Department works with other countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, for example, by sharing clean technologies with developing nations. Also see www.state.gov/e/oes .

Refugees, Migration, and Population Growth The State Department helps millions of refugees and victims of conflict or natural disasters around the world. Each year, the United States also allows tens of thousands of refugees to live in the U.S. permanently. Population growth affects the environment and the ability of governments to provide services to the growing number of people who live in less space, use more fuel, and require more food. Also see www.state.gov/j/prm.


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